Many Consumerism Commentary readers don’t know this: I was a band geek. In high school, I played clarinet in wind ensemble and marching band. This continued into college, where I decided to major in music education. In college, I performed in a variety of ensembles on a variety of instruments ranging from trumpet to percussion and from crumhorn to gamelan.
Despite the wide range of possibility, I stuck with clarinet for my four fall seasons marching with our highly successful college marching band. Regardless, the professor and director of the marching band spoke to us once about careers and life choices. She considers herself extremely lucky. She has a career (as a professor of music education, professor of music performance, and director of the marching band and one of several symphonic bands) doing what she loves doing. Not many people would be lucky enough to be able to be paid for spending their days with the activity about which they are passionate.
So when I read this advice from Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, the words sounded familiar.
My father was an artist who loved what he did. He’d sit at his board 12 hours a day. I once said to him, “Gee, Dad, all the other fathers have time after they come home to play ball or sit around. At the end of the day, you’re working.”
He put his brush down and said, “Those fathers are doctors, lawyers and bankers. When they come home, all they want to do is their hobby. My work and my hobby are the same. Find work in something you love and it won’t feel like work.” I listened to him. And I have been fortunate enough to work at something that I love.
To find what you love doing, you have to have an opportunity to discover your talents. I was given the opportunity at an early age to have exposure to music, for example. I also had access to personal computers and the internet as I was growing up in the 1980s, unlike many other children my age. I participated in more activities, like little league baseball and karate, and this variety helped me to figure out what I could be passionate about.
I’ve changed a bit since college. Music and arts education is still very important to me, but I’ve moved away from that as my vocation. I certainly do not love my day job now. I do my best, or close to it, and I am interested in furthering my career, but I am more interested in working with the internet at this point in my life. I’m not sure that I love the internet, to use Kamen’s terminology. When I’m writing, it doesn’t feel like I’m working, but I wouldn’t say that this is my talent or passion. It does feel like work, however, when I am not feeling inspired and cannot come up with ideas.
I have so many interests that it’s difficult for me to hone in on just one that can define my vocation in such a way that it will be everything for me.
If you have some idea of an activity that you absolutely love, something for which you have a talent, and nothing else you could see yourself doing, and if you can find a way to make a living doing this activity, then you have an opportunity to be one of the lucky few. I think this may not be possible for many people. Either they haven’t had the opportunities to discover their passion and talent or, like me, they could see many different paths.
Do you have a passion? Does it coincide with your job? Could you make a living with your passion?
The smartest advice I ever got, CNN Money
Published or updated July 29, 2008.